DETROIT -- The words “infinitely prepared” and “information seeker” are phrases used to describe White Sox catcher Yasmani Grandal by his teammates and coaching staff.
But Grandal’s overall preparation process certainly has evolved since coming to professional baseball in 2010 as the first-round Draft pick of the Reds.
“After my second or third year in the big leagues, I needed to make a change,” Grandal said. “I didn’t feel like I was getting all the information I needed to be successful. The time that I did get the information, I did good. So it just went from there and kind of started perfecting that. And it’s grown to where it’s gotten now.”
“He will look for information anywhere he can and try to use it to our advantage any way possible,” said White Sox Major League instructor Jerry Narron, who works with the catchers. “You don’t have to worry about him being prepared before ballgames.”
Grandal explained that this particular mindset took root when he reached the Majors with the Padres in 2012. At that point, he admittedly didn’t have much to go with on the information side.
“I didn’t have anybody who kind of took me under the wing and told me this is the way it’s done,” Grandal said. “So I just did the same thing I did in the Minor Leagues: Come in on a daily basis, hit and then go through scouting reports and have the pitching coach tell me what to do.
“After a while, I didn’t really like that. I felt like I was missing a lot of things when I was calling a game and being behind the plate. So that’s when it kind of started, where I started asking for help. I would go work out at 9 o’clock and then go up to the front office and sit down with our advance guy and have him take me through the whole lineup watching swings and misses, watching pitches, going through scouting reports.”
That information overload has benefitted numerous younger players who work with Grandal. Romy Gonzalez, a fellow product of the University of Miami, gave a shoutout to Grandal this week in Texas for getting him into the video room and helping make some swing adjustments.
It came from Grandal sitting down and just watching Gonzalez in action, beginning when he was on an rehab assignment with Double-A Birmingham while Gonzalez was playing there.
“My first game [there], Romy comes in and hits three homers, and I have no idea who this guy is. I had no idea he went to the University of Miami,” Grandal said. “Even though I’d spoken to him before the game that night, I didn’t know.
“I sat down when I was DHing, and I just watched. It just so happens I have a pretty good memory and can pretty much picture what a really good swing looks like, to not so much.”
The goal was not to get in Gonzalez’s head when he first got the call to the White Sox on Sept. 1.
“Kept it simple with him, and then all of a sudden, it was, ‘I know you can do more than that, because I’ve seen you do it. Let’s make this slight adjustment and see what happens,’” Grandal said. “All of a sudden he comes out and does great. For him, it was literally just a minor adjustment.”
“Offensive force” might also come to mind when describing Grandal, as the switch-hitter is slashing .371/.494/.806 with eight home runs, 21 RBIs and 14 runs scored in 18 games since returning from the injured list on Aug. 27. Grandal had surgery to repair a tendon in his left knee in early July -- right in the middle of a torrid stretch at the plate -- but he has stayed just as hot after a quick recovery.
A right knee injury sustained on Feb. 24 slowed Grandal down at the outset of the season, and in Narron’s opinion, that might have cost him a chance to win a deserved Gold Glove Award.
“No question. Just his body of work has shown that,” Narron said. “He seems like every year he has a really solid year, and one guy might have a little better year. Hopefully coming back next year he’ll stay healthy all year and he’ll win it.”
“Yaz and I work really well together,” said White Sox pitcher Dylan Cease. “We’re almost always in the same process when it comes to pitch calling as well. He’s great at framing pitches too, and my good offspeed pitches end up at the bottom of the zone, so he’s able to steal strikes and save strikes that way as well. It’s nice having a high-quality catcher back there.”